Forgiving Your Debtors

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:17-9).  
 After World War II, a former prisoner of a holocaust camp, Corrie Ten Boom, was giving a lecture about forgiveness. At the back of the room, she noticed a man who had been a Nazi guard at the camp where she and her sister had spent years suffering. Her sister, Betsie, had died at that camp. After her lecture, the man came up to her and said that he had become a Christian since then, and he asked Corrie to forgive him for the horrors that took place during the Holocaust. With shaking hands, Corrie Ten Boom reached out to him and said, “I forgive you brother.”

People have done unspeakable things to others. We put each other through the wringer. We drag one another through the mud, but at the end of it all, the only thing that matters is that we forgive.  

Our last devotion was about the risk of revenge, and we touched on forgiveness, but why is it so necessary that we forgive those who wrong us? We often get the idea that if we hold grudges, our anger and bitterness is somehow harming the one who harmed us. If we can just stay right on top of resentment, we are winning the battle, making our enemies suffer, and making them pay. They’re going to get what’s coming to them.  

We think this way, but it doesn’t work this way.

We put ourselves in a cage when we live like this.  

We also sit by the door and wait for people to come knocking with an apology that might never show up. There are times when people, like the former Nazi guard, will realize the mistakes they’ve made and they will seek reconciliation, but many times, you’ll never get an apology. We might say we’ll forgive when they come crawling back to us for redemption, but that day might never come.  

We can’t live with the mindset that we’ll stay in our anger just to hurt someone or that we’ll forgive when the time is “right.” God says to forgive others as He has forgiven us. We must forgive so that we can be forgiven (Colossians 3:13). Some offenses seem unredeemable, but perhaps that is why we have stories such as the one Corrie ten Boom tells us. Even when the guard—who had been a part of such evil and who had worked at the very camp where her sister died—came and sought redemption, the Lord gave her the strength to forgive.  

It won’t change what happened, but there is no freedom in hatred. Love endures all things, and it’s by love that you’ll find freedom and the grace to forgive your debtors.

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